By Kathy M. Newbern and J.S. Fletcher ©2016
(Part 6 in a Series)
If you’ve heard of the Westin hotel brand, you likely know about their trademark Heavenly Bed. That and much more await at the heavenly, 200-room oceanfront Westin Jekyll Island that opened in April 2015.
The five-story, U-shaped, beachfront hotel was designed by LLW Architects of Memphis, TN, to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver specifications and minimize the hotel’s impact on the barrier island’s sensitive surroundings. The 8,750 cubic yards of concrete used in the construction were sourced from a plant in Brunswick, GA., only 15 miles from the site. Westin brand room design specifications also are 60 percent more sustainable than conventionally built guest rooms, providing a more healthful guest environment.
This resort on an island that’s actually a Georgia State Park has found a fan following from couples and families to small groups and larger convention attendees. It was constructed alongside the 128,000-square-foot Jekyll Island Convention Center, which opened in 2012, and adjacent Beach Village with an oceanfront promenade, village green, restaurants, retail shopping and Great Dunes Park. This is the only oceanfront convention center on the East Coast south of New Jersey, and it offers 78,000 square feet of meeting space for groups of 25-6,450.
We were welcomed and given a tour by Kevin Baker, director of sales and marketing. Stepping inside, guests are greeted by a large, modern, airy lobby deftly reflecting the Westin brand’s nod to nature. Baker further explained how this contemporary brand designed this particular property to fit its setting, taking inspiration from the island and especially tranquil Driftwood Beach. They pulled it off beautifully with décor fitting especially well here, where conservation and the environment are high priorities.
The eye-catching lobby centerpiece is a recessed fireplace topped by a free-flowing driftwood sculpture framed on both sides by windows showing off the incredible view (see photo at right). The lobby also features a nature installation art piece of closely cropped growing grasses reminiscent of window panes (see the slideshow). Oversized photographic prints throughout the property feature closeup scenes of the island’s natural habitat and yes, Driftwood Beach. Lots of light-colored woods compliment rugs, upholstery and other accents in soft greens and blues reminiscient of ocean water and forests.
A paver patio and bright, green grass courtyard lie between the property’s U-shaped center and the bike path and beach just beyond. This is an especially popular spot for weddings and receptions. The bike path is alluring as it is only steps away and at 25 miles runs the length of the island. Bikes are for rent nearby. (Check out our video including “bike cam” footage with the Go Pro. Fun times.)
At one end of the Westin, you’ll find the inviting, zero-gravity, walk-in pool with a walkway to the ocean just across the dunes. There, guests will find beach chair and umbrella service. Salty’s poolside bar and café offers cocktails, snacks and lighter fare. Beside it inside is a roomy fitness center with great ocean views from the treadmills and ellipticals, and there’s loaner gear and a running concierge.
A great example of The Westin embracing this island is how, in protection of hatching turtles, exterior lighting at the resort is at a minimum, is subdued and red-tinted. Hatching turtles, by instinct, follow the moon’s light toward the sea. Beach communities such as Jekyll encourage minimum outdoor lights on homes and cottages and request no use of light-emitting devices on the beach at night, such as cell phones. Walkers are encourage to use red covers on flashlights. Lots more details are available at the nearby Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
Checking into our oceanfront room, we found not one but two of those Heavenly Beds and in the bathroom exclusive White Tea Aloe bath amenities. I had forgotten how much I loved those Heavenly Robes until I slipped one on. (The only misstep this visit was that only one robe was provided instead of two).
There’s in-room, high-speed Internet and an ergonomic work space. (Readers here know we always appreciate both.) Of course, the hit of the party was the oceanfront balcony where we watched the sun sink to shed that perfect light – called “the magic hour” in film making – on the beach and ocean waves beyond.
The main restaurant on property is The Reserve serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and specializing in fresh, local seafood. It seats 100 inside plus 80 outside. Harry’s, the hotel’s outdoor rooftop bar, has sweeping views of the beach and ocean. In the accompanying video, Baker explains how Harry’s got its name. Hint: He still comes to Jekyll Island.
Historic District & Beautiful Beaches
Close to the island’s National Historic Landmark District, The Westin Jekyll Island also is convenient to the island’s four golf courses, 10 miles of barrier island beaches and a variety of outdoor recreation, including marsh eco-tours, the Sea Turtle Center, dolphin tours, kayaking, fishing and a marina. Popular with families is the Summer Waves Water Park and a Mini-Golf spot. Segway tours are offered though we were unable to book. (Our call was returned as we were driving home, and the owner apologized. She was suffering from an injury). But definitely rent a bike and explore on your own – it’s glorious.
Among the island’s beaches are Driftwood, already mentioned, plus:
- Glory Beach – Portions of the 1989 movie “Glory” were filmed on “Glory Boardwalk” in Jekyll Island. Glory Boardwalk is located next to the Jekyll Island Soccer Complex. Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Cary Elwes all starred in this movie.
- Great Dunes – This 20-acre beachfront park has several picnic pavilions, a deck for activities, play areas for children, bocce ball and volleyball courts, and public beach access with restrooms and showers. There’s lots of paved parking.
- South Dunes – With elevated boardwalk beach access and access to over 20-foot high dunes, this park offers picnic tables and grills, open-air and screened-in picnic pavilions, public restrooms, dog bag stations, an observation deck and a freshwater pond.
- St. Andrews – This beach is a short walk from Jekyll Point, the southern-most point in the island. Rolling waves, pristine sand dunes and passing dolphins are common sights at this oceanfront picnic area, which is also popular for birding and shelling. The picnic area also features a two-story, wildlife viewing platform and the Wanderer historical marker. The Wanderer was one of the last slave ships to to reach the U.S. The memorial is to those who suffered on that ship and afterward.
If You’re Going: For more, visit www.westinjekyllisland.com. The Westin Jekyll Island offers the Starwood Preferred Guest program. For island and area info, visit these great websites: www.jekyllisland.com and www.goldenisles.com.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:
• Other stories by Kathy M. Newbern, Luxury Travel Examiner
• Stories by JS Fletcher, International Travel Examiner
Luxury Travel Examiners Kathy M Newbern and spouse J.S. Fletcher just recently returned from Jekyll Island. They report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the glob as award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers. They also created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business. Their travels inspire many of their book settings.